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China calls on US, North Korea to tone down rhetoric

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang

China has urged the United States and North Korea to exercise restraint, reminding the sides that war would not resolve the long-standing issues between them.

The US military has been conducting joint exercises with South Korea since Monday, drilling mock attacks on North Korea in different war scenarios.

North Korea said on Wednesday that those drills made war with the US inevitable.

An unnamed spokesman for North Korea’s Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday that Washington’s threats against the North have made the outbreak of war in the Korean Peninsula an “established fact.”

“The remaining question now is: when will the war break out?” the source said.

Amid the heated rhetoric, China, which is North Korea’s main ally, called for restraint.

“We hope all relevant parties can maintain calm and restraint and take steps to alleviate tensions and not provoke each other,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said at a press briefing on Thursday.

“The outbreak of war is not in any side’s interest. The ones that will suffer the most are ordinary people.”

The US has been at odds with North Korea over its rapidly-advancing weapons program. Pyongyang, in turn, says it is developing its missiles and nuclear program to guard against potential hostility against the US, which has substantial military presence in the region.

Russia says North would like to talk to US

Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says he has told US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on the sidelines of a conference in Vienna that Pyongyang would take part in direct talks with the Washington.

Lavrov said that Moscow was prepared to facilitate and act as a mediator in the potential talks between the two countries. He said Pyongyang wanted to seek guarantees on its security.

“We know that North Korea wants above all to talk to the United States about guarantees for its security. We are ready to support that, we are ready to take part in facilitating such negotiations,” Interfax news agency quoted Lavrov as saying.

Lavrov also said that the US military exercises and aggressive rhetoric were causing an unacceptable escalation in the tensions with North Korea.

Japan to buy long-range missiles from US, Norway

Japan said on Friday that it was going to purchase long-range missiles from the US in an apparent countermeasure against the North.

Japan’s Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said on Friday the ministry intended to request a special budget to purchase long-range cruise missiles deployed on fighter jets. According to local media, the ministry plans to buy JASSM and LRASM long-range, air-to-ground missiles with a range of some 900 kilometers from US firms.

It also plans to buy Joint Strike Missiles with a range of some 500 kilometers from Norway’s Kongsberg Defense and Aerospace, news reports said.

Japan’s military has been constitutionally restricted to self-defense, relying heavily on the US to protect itself. Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe plans to change the constitution to bring the military greater powers.

Earlier this week, Abe told parliament that North Korea’s missile tests were an “imminent threat” to Japan, claiming that negotiating with Pyongyang was meaningless.

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